Practical Ecommerce

Black Friday opportunities — and pitfalls

It’s October, and that means ecommerce businesses should be in the thick of Black Friday preparation. I addressed the topic last year, in “A blueprint for Black Friday planning.” I actually dusted that article off this year and used it for FringeSport. It was helpful!

In this post, I’ll address FringeSport’s Black Friday mindset. I’ll also address the hidden dangers — the pitfalls — of the sudden increase in sales.

Mindset

Last year, outdoor retailer REI canceled its Black Friday sale and asked its customers to simply go outside, and enjoy. I’m a fan (and a customer) of REI. I respect this stance against consumerism.

However, for FringeSport, canceling our Black Friday sale would be business suicide. Consumers in our industry look for Black Friday deals. I would love to tell our shoppers to go lift weights or do something athletic in their garage. But I fear that would not work well for us.

When we’re planning a Black Friday sale at FringeSport, our mindset is that the entire weekend — Black Friday through Cyber Monday — is a customer acquisition opportunity. Shoppers are primed to buy. We see both traffic and conversion spikes during that period. Our overall conversion rate peaks for the year on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is number two.

The highest traffic day for the year is typically Black Friday. The exception is when a piece of content goes viral, which causes a spike in traffic but not a corresponding spike in sales. Thus we view Black Friday as a an ideal customer acquisition day.

We also have a lot of returning shoppers on Black Friday. This is important, as ecommerce success depends on repeat buyers. Regardless, whether they’re first time or returning buyers, we need to ensure their experience with us is the best possible. If they are first timers, we want them to buy again. If they’re returning buyers, we want them to stay that way, to be lifetime customers.

Even though we’re offering discounts and we’re busy, we still have to make sure that we don’t degrade the customer experience. This includes front-end responsiveness on our phones and in our emails, as well as shipping times and post-sale customer service efforts.

The other thing to remember about Black Friday is that it’s early in the shopping season. When shoppers buy from us on Black Friday we want them to buy again during that holiday season, either for themselves or as a gift.

Pitfalls

Now on to pitfalls. One big mistake that we’ve made over the years is letting employees get frustrated due to a high workload. We are a retail business, and we have to remind our employees of that. While we very much value their work-life balance, and their time with their families, the week of Thanksgiving and the following week is an amazingly busy time for us. We need all hands.

In fact, we’re busy until the last few shipping days before Christmas. Our employees need to be on. Conversely, a bit after Christmas we slow down. That’s a good time to allow employees to recoup, spend time with their families, and get ready for the year ahead.

Another pitfall is slow fulfillment. A few years ago, it took us up to two weeks to ship all Black Friday orders. Last year we completed all Black Friday orders by the following Wednesday. This year we have a more aggressive goal. Remember, just because customers are buying at a discount doesn’t mean that they expect a degraded experience.

Yet another pitfall is mistakes — shipping mistakes, customer service mistakes, and all sorts of mistakes. A key contributor to mistakes is tired employees and seasonal, untrained workers. But customers do not care. They just want excellent service and fast and accurate shipping.

In short, you can make a lot of sales during the Black Friday weekend. You can make a lot of customers happy. It can be fun for employees. Certainly those are the goals for FringeSport. But we also want to manage it better than last year, to minimize the pitfalls.

Do you have suggestions for Black Friday sales? Let us know in the comments, below.

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